DEPUTY RECALLS CIRCUS GROUNDS

DALLAS WAS PACKED with plenty of excitement for a small boy who arrived here with his  parents in 1893, according to Leven T. Deputy, retired Dallas News mechanical department head. He had been born five years before on a Cooke County farm near Gainesville.  “One of my sharpest and most lasting impressions,” Deputy re­called, is of the big, 3-ring circus which was staged annually under a mam­moth tent just across from where we lived.

Deputy Recalls Circus Calliope

Deputy Recalls Circus Calliope

My father and mother had taken a house on College Avenue in Southeast Dallas. It faced the circus grounds, the large open space be­tween College and Exposition and bounded on the north by Com­merce, on the south by Santh Fe Avenue.

In this way we had front-row seats for the great show of the circus. It took in a lot more than the circus performance itself, including the arrival and unloading of the circus from the special train parked on the Santa Fe tracks, the setting up and taking down of the Big Top, the feeding and watering of the elephants and other strange animals, and the start, then the windup, of the circus parade in which the steam calliope played so important a part.

Deputy began his schooling in the Alamo School, one of the five brick schoolhouses erected by the city when it began operating the present public school system in the 1880s. The Alamo School was on the corner of Hickory and Nettie. It was abandoned and razed a num­ber of years ago. ( The Cumberland Hill schoolhouse on North St. Paul at Woodall Rodgers Freeway is of the same vintage, the last survivor among the five buildings. It, too, is marked for early demoli­tion.) Deputy’s first-grade teacher was Miss Katie Scott, daughter of a well-known Dallas physician.

By the time Deputy was ready for the third grade, his parents had moved to a new home on the corner of Washington and Munger in “the woods” in Northeast Dallas. The area got its name from the large grove of post oak trees which dominated it, remnants of which are still being found along Oak Grove, Haskell, and other streets in the area. The change of residence meant a transfer to another public school, this time to the San Jacinto School. The site today is occupied by the Dallas Public School Administration building on Ross. Two of his teachers there were Mrs. M. B. Henderson, also its principal, and Miss Lida Hooe, later art supervisor for the city school system. Two present Dallas grade schools are named for them.

Memory of the San Jacinto School also recalled the San Jacinto streetcar line. “This mule-drawn car line was owned and operated by J. W. Keller, pioneer Dallas traction man,” Deputy said.

The cars were fairly small, seating only eight or ten people. They were pulled, two mules to a car. These were Jack Rabbit mules and had to be replaced by a fresh pair about every mile.

Thus there had to be three mule car barns along the route from San Jacinto and Washington to North Ervay, thence to Ross, on Ross to Field and finally winding up at the Texas & Pacific passenger depot at Pacific and Lamar.

The mule barn at Washington and San Jacinto was a special favorite with the boys at the school. “It was completely off limits to all teachers and principals. It was there that we youngsters settled argu­ments too tough to be wound up on the school grounds.”

Deputy moved on to old Dallas High School on Bryan Street ( present-day Crozier Technical High) shortly after the turn of the century. He recalled a prank by one of Dallas’s former mayors:

I always remember the ceiling of the main assembly room on which the name “George Sergeant, class of ’01” had been scrawled in large letters. This was George Sergeant who later served as mayor of Dallas during the Texas Centennial Exposition in 1936.

A few years ago I ran into George and finally asked how he got his name in such prominent display back in 1901. He said it was easy; he merely went up to the school one night when nobody else was around, pulled enough desks, chairs, and tables from the offices of Prof. J. O. Mahoney and other teachers to make a ladder to the ceiling, then set to work with paint and brush.

 

Courtesy Dallas Yesterday by Sam H. Acheson.   Photo: James Flander’s Alamo School, built in 1893, at the southeast corner of Nettie (now Jeffries) and Ophelia (now Hickory) streets. Courtesy Callas Rediscovered by William L. McDonald.  Other Dallas school history can be found here.